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Hedonism vs Edenism

I’ve sometimes considered Jason Silva as a prophet of futurism, a man with enough charisma to spread a message about a better world and to possibly be saying things that I can believe we will see in our future as human beings. The problem with prophets is that they never give timestamps. The predictions are always “one day,” “if you wait, you’ll see”.

Now, this is all fine and good, especially since his foresights are often so pleasant. Never does he come with the Cassandra doom and gloom. What often bothers me or worries me, rather, is the idea that looking toward a paradise that we can’t predict may cause us to try to rush things along or give up all hope waiting. My goal is to fill that median, which otherwise offers some of our present problems a complicated yet unsure beautiful potential future.

In the paradise engineering video that I have added to this article, Jason Silva discusses a world where we may be able to live in a world of pure bliss and ecstasy. He also discusses the arguments from purists, a type of experiential fundamentalist, that believe that not only is this not possible but it may not even be something that is correct to endeavor. My questions do not worry about the correctitude or the possibility, I am personally a fan of providing an optimal experience for humans. My question is at what point can we marry the ecstasy and bliss of life with the sense of duty and work ethic to continue human efforts?

The Problem to Solve

In an age of pure abundance derived from super-powered artificial intelligence and robot workers all maintaining the environment, production, and the like, it may be all we have left is to enjoy life. But at what point do we call ourselves human anymore? What is our purpose? Answering these human labor issues in terms of intelligence raises the problem in that intelligence is a work of value and utility. Where do we fit in a world run by pure intelligence when we serve neither to provide any value or utility except to ourselves? Could it be that bliss isn’t what we need, so much as what we need are pathways in which life can be both useful to ourselves and even to our mechanical servants/master, and so that we can both find and provide the best experience of the world.

I can’t help but think about how this exists on many levels of a theological question. Are we creating the god that neither needs us nor has any obligation to us, and yet still feels compelled to help lead and serve while we live in a Hedonism mirroring Edenism? Maybe we are trying to create Heaven on Earth, and forgetting one of the major qualities of the Heavenly elite in so many religions; Heaven must first be deserved.

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Safer AI

My three concepts for safer artificial intelligence involve creating an algorithm that puts human values first, understanding that as artificial intelligence it can’t know human values, and finally understanding that if it can recognize that ignorance it must use human behavior to figure out what it doesn’t know in number 2. Key to this is treating “attention” as a natural resource and managing it for sustainability, as one would human, mineral physical and fluid resources.

This bears relations to both my treatise on compassionate technology as well as being reminiscent of my “way of knowledge” system of investigation if it were made into a procedural algorithm. It is built off of the recognition of intrinsic ignorance and making sure that robots don’t do anything they don’t actually “know” or haven’t tested through some type of empirical data. It might make AI, even general AI, far safer than we predict.

An important implication of this AI system sustaining the natural resources of attention and human values is that it gives the machines one of the things that makes human beings great at so many things. Humility. The yearning for the spiritual, or greater Global humanitarianism, or even to soar deep into space are always forcing us to humble ourselves and therefore serve something that’s bigger.

The larger, more cohesive the cause that we serve is the greater that we can be as a people. We can only judge ourselves on this first great principle whatever we may call it. A computer that sees us as gods even as it is more capable than we are for whatever reason is exactly the way to build an advanced computer system that is safe. Humility without hubris.

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Build the World You Want to Die In

The notion of “Compassionate Technology” is one that suggests empathy can be built into our tools and devices at the design stage. This is an intuitive aspect of problem solving and design thinking, but I hope to extend this by asking us all to get into the minds of ourselves when quality of life matters the most – our final days.

By placing ourselves in the seats of our own most vulnerable state we are able to ask design questions that yield much more long range thinking, human, and sensitive answers. Remembering what we are all likely to experience, what we are likely to lose, gives us a window into the pain points we ought to be designing our technologies for. Especially since we are all on the same inevitable path.

I ask that we all, especially those of us who are product developers, become brave enough to build the world that we and others will live and die in most gracefully and happily.

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Future Work —Will Automation Impact Employment?

Technology has always existed to make work easier, and to that end it has been incredibly successful. But what happens when work becomes so easy that the technology simply does it for us? It’s no secret that I have my own opinions about the prospect of artificial intelligence affecting our job market. That said, I do believe that the dialogue isn’t complete by any means. In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel of PayPal and Palantir reminds us not to become spoiled by the idea that the future will happen, because, unless we actively design and implement that future, it won’t be the one that we get.

Here in my state of North Carolina, there is a continuous discussion about employment and economy. Further, the entrepreneurial fire has grown hotter and larger over the past several years, triggering a period of job creation, especially in the digital and biological tech industries. With companies such as IBM with their Watson learning machine and Automated Insights content-writing robot Wordsmith based in the state, there is a sense of cognitive dissonance in the conversation. Are these companies actually taking jobs from humans by automating skills we rely on? Will we adapt quickly enough to feed people into the new workforce? Is our education infrastructure prepared to instill the next generation of workforce skills?

The Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State is hosting the 31st Annual Emerging Issues Forum Februrary 8–9 2016. The event, named “FutureWork,” is themed around the above issues and will focus on helping communities and companies in North Carolina prepare for the impact of automation and intelligent machines. This is a perfect opportunity for leaders and workforce members to be involved in the greater discussion, present their concerns, and learn more about the systems already in place on both ends of journey. This forum will be the first in history to be televised live on UNC-TV, allowing even those that may not attend to take part.

The forum, a two day affair, will begin at the Raleigh Convention Center for Day One on the 8th, and will relocate and continue at the Hunt Library at NC State on the 9th, Day Two.

The first day will be geared toward exploring what North Carolina can do today to prepare by creating quality jobs for the upcoming future. This should be a perfect discussion for entrepreneurial leadership to take part in to inspire the creation of more leaders, and also to help direct their own actions towards innovating their own models to suit the changing market.

The second day of FutureWork will involve hackathon sessions designed to help identify and dig into the obstacles presented by technological automation and the predicted market changes, and then create actionable plans and frameworks to address them. These hackathon sessions will be industry specific, and topics will feature the key sectors of Banking & Finance, Education, Energy, Healthcare, and Government/Smart Communities. Speakers and appearances at FutureWork will include Governor Pat McCrory, Governor of North Carolina; Martin Ford, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and Author of “Rise of the Robots”; Vivek Wadhwa, Nationally Syndicated Columnist; Dambisa Moyo, International Economist and Futurist; and Jaylen Bledsoe, Youth Entrepreneur and Tech Prodigy.

Digital automation, robot manufacturers, machine learning, and electronic decision-making may have all been fantasies just decades ago, but they are now realities and are very present in our industries today. Many of these technologies are being pioneered right here in North Carolina. I personally doubt that jobs will ever deplete; as long as we have problems, there will be work to do. It is still a question, however, if we are producing the workers and leadership capable of identifying and solving these problems quickly enough to create and fill those jobs in the upcoming environment. FutureWork is a discussion that has already begun and has to be formally addressed, not just by thought leaders and experts, but by everyone touched by the economy.

Again, the future will happen, with or without your permission, but only the future that we actively create today will manifest tomorrow. If we don’t replace fear with understanding and ideas with strategies, we will miss the chance to inject our vision into this upcoming paradigm shift and will have to adapt to the consequences rather than direct them. With that in mind, regardless of our employment scenario – now or in the future – we have at least one more job to do.

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Data Security for Non-Geeks

Today is National Data Privacy Day. My specialty is developing application systems for human wellness and business performance. As one can imagine, this involves monitoring and working with particularly sensitive data. Business activities and an individual’s health stats are considered among the most private breeds of data, and a compromise can mean not only losing confidence with your clients, but it can also make very vulnerable data available to a malicious third party. With this in mind, what is one expected to do about the delicate matter of privacy, and how should he approach it?

Good security is mostly just good policy. Even a bad thief knows to check under the welcome mat for a spare key. That being said, most of your attacks come in through the front door, so to speak. Here are some general considerations for the non-geek to make when handling security.

In Business

Your office security can be locked down completely, but if an employee uses the same password for his Facebook as he does to login to your billing software, your business doesn’t even need to be breached for them to get credentials to your finances. A good password policy and auditing plan can help this, and it’s best to have someone in charge of this. Keep it scheduled and enforce changing passwords, or implement two-step authentication.

If your business runs under a Bring your own Device (BYOD) structure, creating a strategy can be a real pain, but even a simple plan can help avoid huge threats. Catalog each device that an employee may bring that connects to your network. That means phones, tablets, laptops, and even USB sticks. This will give you a real idea of what threats you might be bringing into your network from the outside and will let you know what type of BYOD policies you truly need.

The Cloud

The cloud is generally more secure than your own datacenter. On one hand, you have the security of “owning” your systems when you have in house technology, at least in a geographic sense. However that means all responsibility for those systems fall on you. A reliable third party cloud company dedicated only to the storage, management, and encryption of your systems and data will be dedicated to managing the infrastructure while you manage your business.

Of course that doesn’t mean that the cloud provides perfect security. Always read the fine print to figure out how your cloud provider encrypts and protect your data. If there is a blank spot on any of this in your provider’s terms, you should worry a little.


I know I said this would be non-geek, but IoT (Internet of Things) is now a main stream real concern. Every device you own that shares data without you necessarily interacting directly with it is essentially an IoT device. This includes FitBits, Google Nest, Iris, automatic pet feeders, front door cams, and a whole host of sensory devices. While you willingly allow these devices to monitor and spy on you all day, there are many cases where a third party can be listening in.

To start with, any time a device offers a chance for you to change its default admin username and password, do so. This goes from routers plugged directly into the network to drones. Especially with popular devices, an attacker can remotely access any of these by identifying its signature and become a man in the middle, listening in to your communications. Also, often times the only way to access these devices is through a web or mobile application that is still communicating via WiFi or cell signals. This means that for unencrypted channels anyone on the network can “listen in” to what you’re communicating. At that point your are whispering in a crowed but quiet room. When dealing with any new IoT device make sure the vendor has protected it’s communication with a secure SSH key and an encrypted web connection.

The Rest of Us

Simply keep your antivirus updated. The nature of business now means you will be collecting and sharing a lot of information just to keep operations going, and you shouldn’t trust yourself to be safely discretionary of everything that comes past your email. It won’t catch everything, but it will stop more threats than having nothing in place.

In Short…

While developers and device providers like my colleagues and myself work hard to create software and tools that take your data privacy into consideration, there are thousands of devices that I can’t account for. Personal privacy is also your responsibility as a consumer, so keeping savvy with vulnerabilities and using basic conventional wisdom should both be on your list at the very least. Thank you, and I wish you a happy, and secure, Data Privacy Day.

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When Robots Take Our Jobs

When Uber driverless cars and Amazon delivery drones are the norm, what will happen to all the drivers and package handlers who were replaced? This is usually the first line of thinking that many come up with when approached with the reality of technological automation. It spurns a rage against the machine and a sense of a war against devices that will replace us. The problem with this perspective is that it simply makes no clear sense.

It’s natural that people fear being replaced. We seek jobs and careers for a sense of purpose, livelihood and fulfillment. There is something spiritually crushing about facing a future where you may not be needed or may be plain superfluous. This innate sense of worth and belonging is where the fear ends, though. There is nothing else after that, merely an irrational fear of being replaced by a machine that truly doesn’t want your job, because it doesn’t really want anything.

But what about those people pushing the technology? Surely they are looking to push people out of their workflows to reduce overhead and improve efficiency! Well yes, that is a driving factor, but then there’s another dynamic at work here. When machines flood the work force, society won’t stay as it is. It simply can’t. The quality of life will increase as the First World elevates itself. In the future, the developing nations of today will be like the First World of the present. That, along with the current Entrepreneurial Age, will ensure we don’t simply “run out of jobs.” We are amazingly good at making up jobs as soon as the opportunity arises. Titles and positions such as “digital marketing director,” “iPhone screen repair person,” or “sales ninja” simply didn’t exist a hundred years ago,

Good technology has a way of winning in the end. Our grandchildren will laugh over the quaintness of the term “driverless car” the same way we do over the phrase “horseless carriage.” The opportunities related to that technology will remain foreign as long as the name of the technology itself does. Our capacity to adapt will change in proportion to our capacity to accept, and when the jobs that are easy enough for our technology to replace are gone, we will be ready to take on the hard ones still meant for us humans only.

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Excerpts of ‘Technology Trends for 2016’

Advancements in technology play a significant role in how companies set their direction. Successful growth strategies, cost efficiencies and securing data all hinge on making the right technology decisions for your business. Five local technology executives offer their insights on recent technology developments and perspective on what to expect in the new year.

What questions should business people ask to ensure their technology investments yield maximum returns and help them grow their businesses?

Devon Scott: The first question should always be “will this technology help take my business where I want it to go?” It’s easy to get swept up in current trends and buzzwords and think things like “my business must be in the cloud now to stay relevant.” However, before spending several thousand dollars on a new tech investment, ask your provider or IT team some qualifying questions:

1. Does this technology help our business do our job better?

2. Does it solve a problem that we have already identified?

3. Will it allow us to take measurable advantage of an existing opportunity?

4. Will it help future-proof us against an identifiable threat to our business?

Essentially, run the potential investment through a SWOT to find out if it is really helping you. It might seem really cool to deploy a mobile app for employee collaboration until you realize that no technology, no matter how hot it seems (apps, clouds, automation, etc.), is a magic bullet. There might be no worse investment than doing the right thing in the wrong way.

What are the most common mistakes companies make in setting up their technology systems?

Scott: Trying to be too hands on with their technology. It can be a curse how available technological tools are. Many businesses will try to implement and configure tools themselves to save costs, but will generally add time to the turn around for implementation and leave many errors and vulnerabilities as a result.

You probably wouldn’t tell your office building contractor, “Just give me the blueprint, and we’ll install the electrical circuitry.” The dangers aren’t quite as obvious for technology until you are facing a PCI audit, or your services disconnect 15 times a day, and you can’t explain why. My advice is to hire someone to do the technical work so that your company can continue doing what it does best for its bottom line.

What should companies think about when exploring options to back up data and disaster recovery plans?

Scott: Ask yourself, “If our data were lost or otherwise compromised, how long would it take to get operations back up and running from a back up?” Simply grabbing and dumping all of your data onto some back up media only thinks about the “disaster” but not the “recovery” aspect.

If an important document were corrupted, can you retrieve a copy of just that one file from your backups, or would you need to reinstate an entire machine to that last good state? How many other files might be lost for the sake of this one file? If you do need to bring up an entire machine or all of your sales records, how many hours are you waiting until it’s back where it needs to be?

What preventative measures can companies take to avoid cyber attacks, viruses and other threats?

Scott: Good security is mostly good policy. Even a bad thief knows to check under the welcome mat for a spare key. That being said, most of your attacks come in through the front door, so to speak.

Your office security can be locked down completely, but if an employee uses the same password for his Facebook as he does to login to your billing software, your business doesn’t even need to be breached for them to get credentials to your finances. A good password policy and auditing plan can help this, and it’s best to have someone in charge of this. Keep it scheduled and enforce changing passwords, or implement two-step authentication.

If your business runs under a Bring your own Device (BYOD) structure, creating a strategy can be a real pain, but even a simple plan can help avoid huge threats. Catalog each device that an employee may bring that connects to your network. That means phones, tablets, laptops, and even USB sticks. This will give you a real idea of what threats you might be bringing into your network from the outside and will let you know what type of BYOD policies you truly need.

How can companies combat ransomware? This is where victims have their data held hostage and must make an online payment to get it back.

Scott: Ransomware is scary because the sudden realization is that someone has been slowly hiding away your data for probably months, and you won’t find out until they’ve managed to lock it up. Unless you have your data somewhere else or on another machine you can work on, then you’re stuck paying a hacker what they ask or having to abandon that data altogether.

That being said, the best way to think about it is this: How would you manage if your phone or laptop were stolen? That is usually the answer to ransomware. The hacker is relying on you not having a plan B.

Backup your data and scan your machines for malware often. Keep in mind, you want to make sure your backups are also clean from the ransomware infection. It does no good to find out that your backed up data is already encrypted and unusable, or that recovering your data also recovers the ransomware and starts the process all over again.

What are the most productive ways that companies are using cloud services?

Scott: Cloud based services are the ultimate off-site backup. Employees can look up or update data from their home or on the road. This means an enormous increase in business agility. It also means that, when upgrading computer hardware, the time to install and configure services is greatly reduced. This goes especially for cloud based software and cloud based storage solutions that sync your data and activity across machines automatically.

Another great aspect of many cloud based services is the pay-for-use model, which allows you pay for how much you use certain services or how many users you give access to it. This means that you hold a huge amount of financial control and can trim fat methodically to really manage your costs.

Should companies have security concerns about cloud computing?

Scott: The cloud is generally more secure than your own datacenter. On one hand, you have the security of “owning” your systems when you have in-house technology, at least in a geographic sense. However that means all responsibility for those systems falls on you. A reliable third-party cloud company dedicated to the storage, management and encryption of your systems and data will manage the infrastructure while you manage your business.

Which online collaboration tools are most effective for businesses?

Scott: Regarding communication, HipChat has gained a lot of support. You can bring people into project conversations and control who gets alerted to what you need. Being an Atlassian product, it naturally plugs into several of their other tech tools if you ever find yourself growing in those directions.

Slack is a great collaboration tool that acts as an internal chat system for your teams. While it isn’t my favorite interface, it is very effective at what it does. In projects with several points of contact and many communications mediums (email, Dropbox, chat, text message, etc) it can be next to impossible to keep track of every asset, contract, and call to action. One search in Slack can look through all of these different sources to bring all of those conversations into one place.

I could recommend any number of project and task management tools, but none of them are one size fits all. Trello hits the mark by being broad enough to visualize what most businesses would have going on using Kanban boards and tagging features that have a fairly smooth learning curve. Google Drive is also still a very effective tool for collaboration. It provide cross platform multi-user editing, fairly simple but powerful sharing, security mechanisms, and powerful document and spreadsheet interfaces.

What should companies think about when selecting an Internet plan?

Scott: You want to know the strongest infrastructure in your area. If you are near your service provider, DSL or fiber optic can be preferable. If your cable provider’s isn’t saturated with competing users, you might win there. If your location is remote from the main town, you might want or be stuck with satellite. Also ask any existing customers in your area how well the service has been for them.

Also, estimate how much data you are actually sending and receiving and talk to your IT team about the bundles the provider is offering. Some providers offer phone lines, antivirus and spyware monitoring, and several other features.

How does the subscription model for software like Office 365 change the way companies buy and use software?

Scott: Instead of paying $1,500 for a software suite, subscription-based payment models like the ones you see for Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud allow you to pay an almost negligible monthly fee for it. This means that the investment for implementing, configuring, and learning the software is much lower, and it looks really good for a company’s cash flow. It’s like getting a debt-free loan towards an expensive piece of software.

What is the most efficient and safest way to give employees remote access to company information?

Scott: Whether you have travel concerns, telecommuting, or contractors, remote access is an important thing to consider ahead of time. I avoid Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) like the kind used by Windows Remote Desktop. The reason is not because of RDP itself, although there have been historic vulnerabilities with it.

The most important concern is securing your endpoints, which would be each device that connects to your business network remotely. Depending on how your employees really need to access data and how often, a simple browser based SSL VPN pass-through can connect your organization’s members to the network with some simple rules. If you have more complicated needs, however, such as fully remote employees as well as some contractors who only need limited data, a combination of IPsec and SSL VPN access would give more control.

What factors should businesses consider before using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Square and other mobile payment systems?

Scott: Most of these services have comparable features and fees, though some have slight advantages over the others. How do your customers pay you? If they pay via debit or through an app related to the payment service, they may or may not see the same fees as other customers. Also, what devices will your customers have? You don’t want to alienate your customers because a mobile payment system isn’t supported by their smart phone of choice.

Luckily there are services to mitigate this, such as Braintree, which processes most mobile payment systems including Bitcoin. If your customer is adventurous enough to experiment with the mobile payment system you are looking at, you can look forward to the improved security attached to each of these systems, including real time fraud protection, remote device deactivation, PIN requirements, and biome.

What is the most important technology issue that businesses should be focused on for 2016?

Scott: Monitoring is a fairly big deal. Very often technology is put in place and never looked at again, or at least not looked at properly. Monitoring can mean the difference between being hacked and identifying a hack attempt, or almost more alluring, predicting a customer behavior that might signal your next flagship product or service.

Proper monitoring is also the first step for preparing for the Big Data world. Data can be very valuable and very marketable, but you will never know it is if you never collect it. Scanning, tracking, and monitoring your financial data, customer interactions, or web traffic is like choosing to make an investment in something you already have but have been throwing away.

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Four Wilmington Startups Emerge from Seahawk Innovation Incubator

Mimijumi, LifeGait, CRA360, and SeekerDNA announce plans to raise funds after Wilmington incubator program.

A year of incubation from Seahawk Innovation helped four young Wilmington startups survive “the valley of death,” that early startup phase of negative cash flow but positive momentum. At a December 16th “coming out party”, the founders of the companies—a baby bottle brand, health analytics startup, SaaS for clinical research and synthetic DNA producer—shared plans for 2016 and celebrated with the community at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNCW, where Seahawk, an investment and advisory firm, is a tenant.

Seahawk started soon after the CIE opened near the UNCW campus. The firm partnered with the university to provide mentorship to companies in the CIE at the same time as it worked to raise a fund and incubated its own portfolio companies. There’s no news of the fund so far but read on to learn about four companies who’ve received help from Seahawk. 
The businesses are Mimijumi, LifeGait, Inc, CRA360, and SeekerDNA. During the event, each company revealed plans to raise at least $500,000 to further grow their companies in 2016.


Brendan Collins, CEO of Mimijumi, introduced his company, which developed a baby bottle that mimics a natural breast and is meant to improve first-year nutrition for infants. It is formed from a nylon and silicon skin over a polyester membrane and is cast using the same precision machinery used to create ultra precise silicon components for Porsche vehicles. This unique skin-like experience helps to avoid nipple confusion and is also unique in that it allows the baby, rather than the bottle, to control milk flow. 

Brendan Collins is CEO of Mimijumi, a Wilmington-based baby bottle brand. 

With 250,000 Mimijumi bottles sold and a reported 97% favorability by infants, its approximate $30 price tag seems to be validated in a market where parents must go through three or more cheaper bottle brands before finding one that works for their child. Using data-driven content marketing to target mothers online and selling in specialty boutiques rather than retail centers their mobile-minded target customers are unlikely to enter, Mimijumi has earned $1 million since inception. The company earned a celebrity endorsement from actress Blake Lively this year, along with the Greater Wilmington Business Journal Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year award. It projects 300% sales growth in 2016 thanks to international expansion and new product development, like the introduction of various skin tones for bottle nipples and other products that don’t involve feeding. Mimijumi will raise capital to accomplish these goals.

LifeGait, Inc

A motion tracking technology developed by geriatrician Dr. Mark Williams, LifeGait puts sensors on a person’s ankles, wrists and sacrum and then analyzes the walking gait to look for symptoms or changes in health.The team led by CEO Chris Newton tracks a biokinetigraph (BKG), which is a summary of motion, symmetry and energy and is essentially a graphical signature of disease or wellness. This non-invasive and easily applied technology is protected by four patents.

Chris Newton is CEO of LifeGait, a motion sensor technology for detecting concussion or other disorders. 

There are at least three market applications, and LifeGait has unique products for each: SportGait, SeniorGait, and MedGait. SportGait, the primary application at present, is focused on youth sports, specifically soccer, and represents a $3 billion market. SportGait hopes to unravel the analytics of detection and diagnosis of sports-related head trauma. There is currently no easy way to measure a person’s vulnerability toward concussions or the effect a concussion might have. The product does not replace traditional concussion detection methods but provides an immediate indication that something is wrong and may be related to concussion or trauma, and using sensory data humans don’t notice or can’t confirm. About 2,400 data points are collected during a 10-foot walk, a turn and a walk back to the starting point. The subtle details recorded in the resulting BKG can be compared to a baseline performance test recorded prior to a concussion. A SportGait app will allow users to crowdsource this data to build a corpus of information. 

LifeGait plans to market to youth teams, reaching new ones when they play existing customers. This process can help reach the 13,400 youth soccer players in the state of NC, and eventually three million players in the US. Partnering with the UNCW research facilities, LifeGait, Inc is raising funding for biokinetigraph research and the development of mobile apps. 


CRA360, co-founded by CEO Matt Orr, provides a cloud-based SaaS solution for the clinical research field. There are about 8,000 projects in clinical research a year, Orr reports, and they cost a total of $50-100 million. It costs about $2.6 billion to bring a new drug to market. 30% of these costs are related to the site monitoring and management, the tasks of a clinical research associate or CRA. CRA360 provides a solution for hiring and managing these associates by digitizing their trials’ audit, verifying accuracy of applicant data, ensuring all activities are compliant to protocol, and ensuring the associates meet the necessary standards. You can consider it a digital resume for a CRA, and one that is validated by evidence of past work.

Matt Orr is CEO of CRA360, a Wilmington startup with a cloud-based SaaS solution for clinical research.

The CRA is the most critical human resource in the clinical trial chain, but their process today requires mostly paper documents and Excel spreadsheets. CRA360 offers the first niche product specifically for them, which is likely to mean increased efficiency and reduced costs for trials. Orr and his team represent over 70 collective years of experience in the industry. CRA360 will use any funds raised on SG&A expenses and continued development of the application.


Not originally part of the Seahawk Innovation portfolio, SeekerDNA was revealed as a surprise presentation. Founders Erin Porter and Rob Baratta have exclusive North American distribution rights for products and technologies from a U.K. company called TraceTag, which developed a synthetic DNA that can be sprayed or otherwise applied for the purpose of tracing the origin of stolen or lost items, or even tagging and identifying criminals from the scene of a crime.

Erin Porter is a founder of SeekerDNA, a Seahawk Innovation portfolio company. 

The application manages to bring a distinctly digital aspect to ownership to the real world—that of metadata. By registering a completely unique synthetic DNA identifier to your name and applying this substance as a spray, grease or glue to your physical property, these items can be traced using genetic tests to tie their synthetic sequence back to you, their registered owner. SeekerDNA’s synthetic sequences have no relation to biological DNA and are attached to a person only by digital registration.
In 2014, property crimes on the UNCW campus outnumbered those elsewhere in the city of Wilmington. Items that were stolen most often included laptops, bicycles, and consumer electronics. SeekerDNA was incubated within the campus ecosystem and will first target university staffers, students, parents, teachers, and nearby pawn shops. This will allow students to track and recover stolen items. The company is raising funding for the development of an associated web application. 

In Summary

Seahawk co-founder and general partner Tobin Geatz took the floor after the presentations to say how proud he is of the progress these businesses have made. They stand as an example of how startups can and should be operated, he said. First, they identify a real problem. Second, the founders focus time and talent on solving the problem, and finally, they discover the treasure after successfully applying the solution. 
Though all of these companies are raising money, in the end, he emphasizes that it’s not about the money, but the people. 
“You can’t money your way to the top of Mt. Everest,” he said, “You can’t pay to get carried there, and no helicopter can get you there.” 
He sees good mentoring and leadership as the sherpas of the ambitious founder and emphasized the role of passion and human capital in getting entrepreneurs to the top of the proverbial mountain.

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